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U.S. Designates Hezbollah and Drug Cartels as Top Threats

On October 15, Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced a series of measures to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, including the Lebanese militia and political party Hezbollah. After a thorough interagency review, Sessions determined that MS-13, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, Sinaloa Cartel, Clan del Golfo and Lebanese Hezbollah posed the greatest threats to United States and its allies. Sessions appointed a special task force and subcommittees to focus on identify, interdict, disrupt and dismantle the organizations. For years, Hezbollah has had business links to drug cartels, especially in South America. Its operatives have helped move narcotics and laundered the proceeds of sales to finance its operations in Syria as well as its terrorist wing. The following are relevant excerpts from the Justice Department press release.

The subcommittee on Lebanese Hezbollah will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ilan Graff of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  AUSA Graff is overseeing the prosecution of two alleged members of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization, the first such operatives to be charged with terrorism offenses in the United States.

Attorney General Sessions has ordered each of these subcommittees to provide specific recommendations within 90 days on how to disrupt and dismantle TOC, whether through prosecution, diplomacy, or other lawful means.

This new Task Force builds upon work that Attorney General Sessions has already done to dismantle these groups.  On January 11, 2018, Attorney General Sessions established the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team (HFNT), a group of experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors.  HFNT prosecutors and investigators are tasked with investigating individuals and networks providing support to Hezbollah, and pursuing prosecutions in any appropriate cases.  The new subcommittee—which will be staffed and led by HFNT members—will aid the ongoing work of the HFNT.

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